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PLAIN THOUGHTS: The face in the mirror

By Judith Hensley
Plain Thoughts

From our past, faces are frozen in time.

We remember friends from school days that happened 40 years ago or the last time we saw them in person. In our minds, they haven’t aged a single day.

We remember the girls with tiny figures and long legs who all the boys wanted to date.

We remember the muscular athletes with their picture-perfect arms and chests and thick heads of hair.

Even though we look in the mirror and see our own face staring back, there is a part of us that will always see our youthful counterpart.

I recently spent time with an old friend who doesn’t have internet access.

She started wondering about people we had gone to school with, and asked me if I could look for them on Facebook. She made it clear that she didn’t want any photos of herself posted anywhere but was very excited to see some of the old classmates.

Imagine her shock when I pulled up the 40-year-older version of the people she still remembered in their youth. It was a revelation to her.

None of us, including her, look like we did back then. There was such a marked difference that many of the people she wanted to check on were totally unrecognizable to her.

Age can do that to a person. A lot can happen in a person’s life during f40 years, which alters their appearance and speeds up the aging process.

Several people whom she asked to look up had passed away. This was a shocking revelation to both of us. We’re too young to die (we hope), and it’s hard to imagine that many of our classmates had come to an early demise.

Girls who had been known for their long, luxurious hair most often had very short hair. Boys who had boasted thick, wavy heads now are completely bald. Heavy set people from the old days were either completely thin or the same as they were back in the good old days. Thin people from the past had blossomed into well-rounded shapes.

Skin that was once tanned and flawless had wrinkled and crinkled. We all have lines etched in our faces that weren’t there in our youth.

Through the years, I have been guilty of avoiding people and reunions because I anticipated that they were unchanged over the years, while I had aged considerably. My biggest fear was that I’d changed so much, I would be unrecognizable to them.

Many of those people whom we didn’t want to disappoint by our own appearances had changed so dramatically, we couldn’t even be sure we had the right person. This was especially true of one friend whose obituary we found with accompanying photos. She was sure it wasn’t the same person until we read the obituary and confirmed the place the person had been born, where they worked and who their parents were. Looking at the photos, it was still hard to believe.

I’ve never liked or disliked anyone based on their looks. I see the person on the inside. I hope to see them through the eyes of Christ, and yet, I’ve been afraid of being rejected because of the changes in my own appearance.

I have wondered what we will look like in heaven and if we will recognize people we knew in this life at different ages.

Someone said they thought we’d all be at our best — around the age of 30, the age Christ was crucified. I don’t know about any of that.

I do know that there is far more to me than the face staring back in the mirror.

A snapshot on a camera may capture my surface imperfections, but it cannot imprint the youth of my spirit.

May we all age gracefully with an abundance of compassion for the imperfections that can be found in us all.

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